The 2017 Bathurst 1000 winners may have ‘picked themselves’ with their performances but choosing losers was a tough call only made easier as several drivers hit the self-destruct button with a succession of crashes in the closing stages…
The 2017 edition of the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 delivered another great race for fans and teams alike, serving up a thrilling finish after an intense slog on the track. While some enjoyed the fruits of their labour, some were forced to take an early shower and rue what could have been a podium or even a win in the biggest race of the year. We take a look at the winners and losers at the end of the rain-soaked drama-filled 161-lap fight across Mt. Panorama.
- David Reynolds and Luke Youlden proved to be the right guys in the right place at the best time in their careers, keeping their car straight and in the front pack throughout the day to take the Bathurst 1000 crown. After topping the Thursday practice sessions and qualifying second on the grid, the pair showed the Erebus Motorsport Commodore had genuine car speed for the 1000km race. While many of their competitors fell by the wayside, Reynolds and Youlden drove a clean race to take their first wins at Bathurst and the first for Erebus. Victory at Mt. Panorama also moves Reynolds up to sixth in the championship, punching way above the team’s weight, but showing he is emerging as one of the best drivers in the series.
- Scott Pye and Warren Luff well and truly showed they need to stick around in the category, coming from a nowhere place on the grid to be fighting at the sharp end for a podium finish. Luff was the only co-driver to take the start in wet conditions, the decision proving crucial to their efforts as he carved up the field, bringing the car in to play from early on. Pye’s final stint showed he’s more than just a driver to make up the numbers, pulling off the move of the race on Nick Percat at Reid Park, sliding the Walkinshaw car to take second. Luff’s experience and Pye’s sheer determination has made them a good combination this year.
- Fabian Coulthard and Tony D’Alberto may not have won the race on a weekend where their team seemingly dominated, but the final spot on the Bathurst 1000 podium was the most the #12 car could achieve on a weekend where the spotlight was on others. Coulthard looked in contention for the win after D’Alberto drove a smart race in the rain, making no mistakes to return the car to the now championship leader all straight. After Coulthard’s pit crew showed they are the fastest in pit lane on Friday night, Coulthard’s third place secured the New Zealander both the Supercars series and Enduro Cup lead with only three rounds of the year left.
- Scott McLaughlin and Alex Prémat were on track to win their first Bathurst 1000 after showing great car speed in the practice sessions, as well as the Kiwi putting in the fastest Supercars lap around Mount Panorama to take pole position. A spin on the second lap while in the lead was a minor setback in comparison to the car sounding like a bag of bolts in Prémat’s stint, forcing the team to try and resolve the issue. On lap 76, the car gave up the ghost approaching the Cutting, leaving the Frenchman at the top of the circuit and for McLaughlin to put on a brave face. For the championship leader to drop 300 points would have hurt as DJR Team Penske looks to get the #17 back to the top step of the podium.
- Triple Eight Race Engineering failed to capitalise on a weekend where a great result could have come for at least two of their cars. The #888 car of Craig Lowndes and Steven Richards had a race where you’d be forgiven if you didn’t know they were in it, finishing an uninspiring 11th. Car #88 of Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell looked to have the race in the bag when their car developed similar problems to the #17 DJR Penske car, having to be parked in the garage for repairs and eventually being sent out again to collect points which have seen Whincup retain second in the championship. While the #97 finished fifth, the result was less than it could have been after Matt Campbell struggled as a co-driver all weekend, making crucial mistakes at the wrong time. Late in the race, Shane van Gisbergen led coming to the restart but went off the track, losing the lead and having to pit a few laps later after trying to turn his car into a plane at the Chase. All three cars struggled with braking throughout the weekend but ultimately it was the tip of the iceberg in terms of their poor performance.
- Cam Waters and Richie Stanaway have been left to wonder about what might have been after seemingly comfortably controlling the race in the wet and mixed conditions. The Sandown 500 champions were at the front all day due to Waters being one of the most consistent main drivers and Stanaway the quickest co-driver in the wet. After fighting at the front for a majority of the race, a supposedly safe strategy call to make sure the car had enough fuel to finish buried them in the pack. An incident ahead meant Waters had to try and avoid it but was still affected, the rear wing breaking on the #6 machine and a mechanical black flag shown. The young pairing have shown they are quick but need a few more cards to fall their way for further success.
- Chaz Mostert and Steve Owen were one of the two Prodrive cars in serious contention to win the race after leading early on but a rookie error sealed their fate late in the day. Mostert drove a superb opening stint to lead in the pouring rain, proving himself as one of the best wet weather drivers in the category. Owen was as consistent as those around him, following the orders to keep the car straight and bring it back in a condition that Mostert could use to fight with. The final stint saw Mostert on the charge but contact with Garth Tander at Hell Corner damaged the #55 and earned them a drive-through penalty, leaving them to finish tenth at the end of the race. Both drivers have shown they can win together but the small mistakes must end if they want to have a proper chance at victory.
- James Moffat and Richard Muscat demonstrated their respective career paths in Sunday’s Bathurst 1000 after a potential podium was thrown away. Qualifying outside the top ten due to Moffat bringing out the red flag in qualifying, the #34 was in for a tough day regardless of the weather. Early on, Moffat and Muscat dragged the GRM Commodore up the order, Muscat being one of the stand-out co-drivers from the Super2 series who is vying for a main game drive. Both drivers contributed to the car being in podium contention after the safety car periods until Moffat went wide onto the damp part of the track at McPhillamy Park, backing it in to the tyre wall but rejoining the race. The next hit was much bigger, making a similar mistake at Sulman Park which brought an end to the car and their race. While Muscat showed he deserves a permanent drive in the main series, Moffat’s lack of success and slew of mistakes leaves the GRM driver facing an uncertain future.
Next up is the final round of the Pirtek Enduro Cup, the Vodafone Gold Coast 600. The two 300km races will see the co-drivers prove their worth on the seaside streets as the main drivers try to fight for championship glory.